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GUR KE MEETHE CHAWAL / गुड़ के मीठे चावल (JAGGERY RICE)

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There is no love lost between me and the winter season. With frostnipped hands and feet, through out the peak season, who would like it anyway? (Btw, I used to apply kerosene oil on the affected area and it was really helpful for the itching and bringing the swelling down; a nuskha told by an old granny. Try it. It works.) But I used to love winters for its produce and its food. The hot piping Gobhi Parathas with dollops of home churned Cultured Butter & Winter Mixed Veg Pickle, Makki ki Roti and Sarson ka Saag, the sweet endings to meals with Gajar ka Halwa, or the syrupy hot Gulab Jamuns or Besan Ladoo (which never lasted long), Gachak (Peanut Brittle) or Gajar ka Murabba to munch on, a hot bowl of Lup’pi or Kahwa (Saffron Spiced Tea) to sip on and wind up the day with. And how can I forget the hot Samosas right out of the wok or the crispy tangy spicy Palak Patta Chat (Spinach Leaf Fritters) on the weekends. These yummy foods ensured that I always stayed focused on the silver lining to the dark grey cloud called winters.

The villages around my home town produce a good harvest of sugar canes which they sell to the sugar factory in the town. Some villagers used to make fresh jaggery or gur (गुड़) using the cane juice and sell it at local markets. Gur was therefore always made to order by my mother. She would carry spices such as ginger powder, crushed cardamoms, fennel seeds and roasted peanuts, sultana currant (मुनक्का), dried dates (छुहारा), dried & chopped coconut (khopra – खोप्रा) in a certain amount to the gur maker. He would add these spices and nuts while making our batch of the customised gur. This way, the gur not just tasted better but these spices and nuts took its health value a few notches up. This gur was served to us as a digestive after meals.

She would also buy a batch of regular gur from them but from their last year’s produce (The older the gur, the better it is considered to be.) She would use this to make stuff like pickles, gachak, Murunde, sweeten a pudding or make this chawal. With days and weeks passing by, the gur would mature and attain an even deeper tone and a richer taste. Try to get your hands on organic gur.

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250 gm Basmati Rice

500 ml Water

250 gm Jaggery (Gur)

3 tbsp melted, Ghee (do not compromise on this quantity) – Vegans can add coconut oil although I have never tried it

½ tsp Cumin Seeds (Jeera)

½ tsp Black Pepper Corns (as per taste)

2 Black Cardamoms (Moti Elaichi)

1 tsp Cardamom Powder (Hari Elaichi)

3 tbsp sliced, Dry Whole Coconut / Khopra (in half an inch length)

½ cup roughly chopped, Walnuts

2 tbsp roughly chopped Cranberries or whole Raisins

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Scrap the jaggery and mix it in 250 ml of water in a pot. Put the pot on heat and keep stirring while the gur just melts. (Ensure that the mixture does not come to a boil whlile you are heating it) Remove from heat. Sieve it to remove impurities, if any. (I sieved it through a sieve lined with muslin cloth) Set aside.

Pick, wash (till the water runs almost clear) and soak rice for half an hour. After half an hour drain the rice and discard the water.

On medium heat, melt ghee in a broad heavy bottom pan. Add the cumin, black pepper corns and black cardamom. Fry for a few seconds and add the drained rice. Stir the contents very gently with a spatula so as not to break the rice. Add 250 ml water and bring it to a boil.

Once the water begins to boil, reduce the heat and cover the pan. Cook for approximately 5 minutes. Uncover the rice and add half of the jaggery water. Cover and cook for 10 minutes.

Uncover the rice again and add the rest of the jaggery water along with the sliced coconut, walnuts and cardamom powder (& raisins if using). Stir very gently with a fork or back of a spoon. Cover and cook again for 20 to 25 minutes or till the water is completely absorbed.

Turn off the heat and let the rice sit for a few minutes before you open the lid. Gently fluff the rice and serve hot.

P.S. – Don’t worry if the rice turns some what crisp and brown or slightly burnt at the bottom while cooking. We used to allow the rice to burn slightly & just like the tahdig, it was a delicacy served to the guest. Everyone used to hanker for it coz it tastes beautifully caramelly. Try it if you may.

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Note: The cooking time and the amount of water required to cook the rice may vary slightly depending on the quality and variety of rice being used. Add more water if required.

Note: The colour of the jaggery rice will depend on the colour of the jaggery. Mine was deep and dark brown in colour.

Note: The amount of walnuts, raisins and coconut is a matter of personal taste, so feel free to vary their amount. You can omit or add what ever dry fruits you wish to.

Serves 6 – 8

Other winter desserts you might want to check out:

Gulab Jamun

Gachak / Chikki – Peanut Brittle (Gluten free)

Badam Besan Laddu – Almonds & Chick pea Flour Confection (Gluten Free)

Suji Halwa – Decadent Semolina Pudding

Petha Halwa – Pumpkin Halva (Gluten free)

Aate ka Halwa / Kadah Parshad – Wholemeal Pudding

Thanks for visiting and see you soon again

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CHANA DAL, MATAR AUR HARA LEHSUN KA PULAO / चना दाल, मटर और हरा लहसुन का पुलाव(Spring Garlic, Split Bengal Gram & Pea Pilaf)  

 
It is hard to describe my excitement when I saw the tender spring garlic in the market and it goes without saying that it was harder to resist not buying it even though they hit my pocket hard. I had last had potatoes stir fried in the chopped spring garlic nearly a decade ago; they tasted awesome. The best thing about spring garlic is that it is not strong and pungent like the mature garlic. Spring garlic has this mellow quality about it that is not over powering; the flavors are subtle yet distinctively garlicky. 

Pilaf gives one the liberty to become whimsicalhow you ask? One just needs to add whatever one fancies to the rice and the end result is a delicious rewarding rice dish one pot meal; sweet or savory! Simple that a pilaf may be, yet it happens to be such a wonderful fragrant dish which is great on its own and with a side dish or an accompaniment of pickle or chutney; not to forget a drizzle of ghee over hot pilaf J I like to serve savory pilafs with Boondi Raita.
Serve with accompaniments of your choice. I usually pair them in groups, such as chutney with papad and yogurt or ghee with pickle and papad. Make your own combinations and enjoy! 

3/4th glass Basmati Rice
1½ glasses Water
250-300 grams Spring Garlic (Garlic Shoots)
½ heaped cup Green Peas (fresh or frozen)
1/3 heaped cup Split Bengal gram Dal (soaked over night or in hot water for at least two hours)
1 inch stick Cinnamon
5 Cloves
½ tsp Cumin Seeds
1 Bay Leaf
2-3 tbsp Oil
Salt and red chili powder to taste
½ tsp Garam masala

To serve:

Dahi or Boondi Raita

Pick, wash (give it at least 5 – 6 washes ensuring that you do not rub the rice vigorously else the grains will break) and soak rice for half an hour. Keep aside.
Wash and clean the spring garlic and chop it along with the greens. Keep aside.
Heat oil in a heavy bottom pot and pop in the cinnamon, cloves, cumin leaves and bay leaf. Once the spices become aromatic, add sliced spring garlic and saute for a few seconds. 
Add the dal, peas and drained rice. Stir in the salt, chili powder and garam masala. Fry for a minute. Add the measured out water and wait for it to begin boiling. 
Cover the pot with a tight lid and reduce the flame to minimum. Do not open the lid while the rice is cooking. Let it cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the flame and open the lid after 10 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork and serve hot with your favorite accompaniment/s.  
Note: The cooking time of the rice will depend on the quality of the rice that you are using.
Note: Do not be horrified with the amount of garlic that went into this pulao. As I mentioned earlier, the flavors of spring garlic are delicate and if you reduce the amount it won’t impart a lovely garlicky flavour to the pulao; it would end up tasting just like any other pulao.

Serves 4 

Try more of such one pot meal dishes,

Kale Moti Biryani (Bengal Gram Biryani)

Yakhni Pula (Lamb Pilaf  – a delicately flavored pilaf)

IT IS ALWAYS ENCOURAGING TO HEAR FROM FRIENDS AND READERS. I CAN ALSO BE REACHED AT: easyfoodsmith@gmail.com
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YAKHNI PULAO / यखनी पुलाव


The cuisine and food habits of the Indians, especially in the north of India, were vastly influenced by the Mughal (read Muslim) invaders. The origins of Yakhni Pulao lie apparently in Persia and it was introduced to us Indians by the Mughal rulers.
 
Yakhni basically is a yogurt saffron based mutton broth. The broth/ stock is made using mutton and aromatics aka whole garam masala which is tied in a bouquet garni. Aromatic spices are the essence of this pulao or pilaf. Primarily these include fennel seeds, dry ginger powder, cinnamon, cloves, black and green cardamom. Yogurt is another ingredients which is the key to bringing all these flavours together and giving this pulao its unique flavour. For the Yakhni Pulao, rice is cooked in the mutton broth along with the par cooked mutton. 
 
However, one does find variations of it such as mutton kofta yakhni, vegetable kofta yakhni, chicken yakhni and even paneer yakhni i.e. Indian cottage cheese. To balance out the heat of the spices used in the pulao, it is often served with a cooling raita. Yakhni is an integral part of the Kashmiri cuisine in India though Pakistanis and Afghanis also stake a claim on it which is fair enough since Pakistan was a part of India before partition and Afghanistan was the gateway for the Mughal invaders to reach India and an outpost for the Mughal empire. 

This pulao is not to be confused with the biryani. Biryanis are technically meat or vegetables and rice cooked separately, then layered and cooked on dum. For dum cooking the pot in which the rice and meat are layered is covered with a lid and the rim of the lid and pot are sealed with dough to keep all the steam and flavours of the meat inside the pot. The result is an aromatic biryani. Also, biryani has more intensely flavored meat and rice. 
 
Here is the list of ingredients that go into this delicate & aromatic pulao. Do not be intimidated by their number and amount. Most of them are going to go into the bouquet garni i.e. we will put all the ingredients inside a cheesecloth and tie the top into a knot and simply pop it into the cooking pot. Simple as that! 



500 gm Lamb meat (cut into 1 – 1½ inch pieces)
1 glass Basmati Rice (225 gm approx)
2 glasses Water (if pressure cooking, else 3-4 glasses)
2 tbsp Yogurt
1 generous pinch Saffron
1 tbsp Ghee
5-6 Cardamom
2 Black Cardamom
1 tsp Cumin
1½ – 2 tsp Black Pepper Corn
2 small Bay Leaf
10-12 Cloves
2 X 2″ cinnamon
1½ tsp Fennel Powder
2 tsp Dry Ginger Powder (if you don’t have this, use 1 inch whole root ginger and pop it in the pot along with bouquet garni)
5 – 6 cloves Garlic (whole)
1 generous pinch cardamom powder
1 medium onion (whole) + 1 medium onion (sliced)
2 – 3 tbsp oil 
Salt to taste



Wash the rice well and let it soak for at least half an hour. 
Make a dry rub for the meat with a little salt, 2 tsp of oil, dry ginger powder, fennel powder, cardamom powder and marinate the meat with it. Keep in it the refrigerator for an hour. 

For the bouquet garni take a cheese cloth of ample size (i used 10 inches) and put cardamom, black cardamom, cumin seeds, black pepper corns, bay leaf, cloves and cinnamon into it. Tie the top of the cheese cloth into a knot. The garni is ready. Keep it aside. 

Heat a heavy bottom pan and add 2-3 tsp oil. Swirl it around to coat the base. Add the marinated meat and sear on high heat for 3-4 minutes. Add yogurt and stir it so that it does not curdle. Let it cook on a medium so that it forms a nice gravy with the meat. (1-2 minutes)

Add water, whole onion, garlic, bouquet garni, salt, and cook the mutton till nearly done but ensure it is not falling off the bones since it will be cooking further along with rice. (I pressure cooked it as i don’t have the patience to watch over the meat cook for an hour and a half!)

Once the mutton is done, remove the bouquet garni, onion, root ginger (if using). Mash the garlic into the mutton broth. Measure the broth. At this stage the amount of broth should be two glasses.

In a heavy bottom pan, pour the rest of the oil and fry the sliced onions till they become brown in color. Add the drained rice along with the mutton and broth and cook on high heat till the rice starts to bubble. 

Lower the heat to its minimum and add saffron and drizzle ghee. Cover the pot with a kitchen paper towel or a tea cloth and cover with lid. Let it simmer for approx 15-20 minutes resisting the temptation to open the lid. 

Switch off the heat and let the pulao rest for 15-20 minutes. Pop open the lid, fluff up the rice and serve hot with raita or plain curd, chutney or a curry dish of your choice. Dig in!



Serves 3-4

Note: Measure the broth. It should be 2 glasses. If not, add more water to bring it up to 2 glasses.
Note: Making bouquet garni is optional. It helps avoid picking out all the whole garam masala spices from the broth. 

Note: Traditionally the lamb/mutton is not seared in Yakhni Pulao. However, I like to marinate and sear it coz it traps all those wonderful flavors inside the meat and what you get is a aromatic bite each time you dig into a succulent piece. 

Thanks for visiting and hoping to seeing you soon again! 

Post linked to Melissa’s Linky Party

IT IS ALWAYS ENCOURAGING TO HEAR FROM FRIENDS AND READERS. I CAN ALSO BE REACHED AT: easyfoodsmith@gmail.com
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